Richard Toscan:
Playwriting Seminars 2.0 Author Background

THE PLAYWRITING SEMINARS > TOSCAN

'The Golden Age of radio drama is so far in the past that most people think it was just talking heads, but that's a misunderstanding of the medium. Radio drama is a highly visual form of storytelling. When done well, it has much more in common with screenwriting than playwriting.'

-- Richard Toscan

Richard Toscan is the author of Playwriting Seminars 2.0: A Handbook on the Art and Craft of Dramatic Writing with an Introduction to Screenwriting, published in 2011. The first edition has been called “a treasure-trove of information, philosophy, and inspiration” (Theatre Journal), “an absolutely essential guide to all aspects of playwriting” as well as “a valuable whitewater raft trip down the rapids of Hollywood screenwriting” (Magellan), and “a terrific learning environment for writers” (WebCrawler Select). The Handbook's key concepts initially came from his work with Lucasfilm and the BBC. It was originally developed for playwrights and screenwriters, but has since been used by writers of fiction and nonfiction books.

     His radio dramas have been broadcast throughout Europe, North America, and Australia by the BBC, CBC, ABC, and NPR, featuring among other stars, Richard Thomas, Mark Hamill, Brock Peters, and Richard Widmark. He conceived and produced the original 13-part STAR WARS Radio Series in association with Lucasfilm, NPR, and the BBC. The series aired continuously from 1981 through the mid-1990s and is credited with increasing the audience for public radio in America by 40%. It has been recognized by the Armstrong Award for Creative Use of The Radio Medium and was released in five audio/CD editions between 1993 and 1996.

     His stage plays have been in the finals and semifinals of The Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Foundation for The Dramatists Guild/CBS-TV New Play Program, The Sergel Drama Prize, and The Market House Theatre One Act Competition, among others. They have been presented in productions or staged readings by the Galaxy Stage, USC School of Theatre, New Dramatists, The Cast Theatre Foundry Series, The McCaddan Place Theatre, L.A. Arts Repertory Theatre, First Stage, Mill Mountain Theatre Centerpiece Series, and the American Line's Summer Series in New York.

     He has been a Judge for the $10,000 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild New Play Competition [now the Julie Harris Competition] and the $4,000 Oregon Film & Video Foundation Screenwriting Competition, and the Virginia Film Office competition. He was a founding playwright and Board member of First Stage, the Los Angeles new play development program. His students have included a number of notable performers, directors, and writers in theatre, film, and television. Their work has been recognized by Obie, Emmy, and Laurence Olivier awards as well as the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

     For many years, he was Dean of the School of Theatre at the University of Southern California. In 1996, he was named Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts.  In his 14 years as Dean, he is credited with building the national rankings of the School from 25th to the #1 public university arts and design program in America.  In July 2010, he became Dean Emeritus at VCU where he also served as Vice Provost for International Affairs. He has served as a member of many nonprofit boards including the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Theatre Virginia, Richmond Ballet, the Artisans Center of Virginia; and Richmond Performing Aars Center which manages the four-theatre performing arts complex in Virgina. He is a Past President of the Arts Council of Richmond and the International Council of Fine Arts Deans. He was Dean of Portland State University's School of Fine & Performing Arts in Oregon from 1992-96 and was the founding Chair of the Portland Downtown Cultural District. He has also served on the editorial board of the journal of the European League of Institutes of the Arts and was Associate Editor of London's Theatre Journal. In 1998, he established VCU's branch campus in Qatar (VCU School of the Arts in Qatar) the founding campus of the country's Education City, where it has since been joined by Cornell, Northwestern, Georgetown, Texas A&M, and Carnegie Mellon universities. He has consulted with major US universities on the establishment of international campuses.

     Toscan holds the Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign (dramatic literature and American theatre history) and has held fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Richard Toscan, Dean Emeritus
VCU School of the Arts
rtoscan@vcu.edu